Enter Shikari, it quickly becomes clear on entering The Academy, are a band that inspire significant loyalty: band tattoos, jostling for the front row, band football shirts, and a palpable sense of excitement all surround the venue.

First, though, we’re given a local treat in the form of the pulsating backing track and in-your- face live vocals of Meryl Streek. Sounding something like a punked-up Sleaford Mods with a
distinct Dublin accent, Meryl Streek is an emotional and fiercely bitter performer, taking aim at the likes of Leo Varadakar and the housing crisis in punchy tracks like’ Death To The
Landlord’ and ‘If This Is Life’.

There’s no question who the main draw are tonight, though. Once amongst John Peel’s favourite bands, Enter Shikari’s strength is both in the abstract yet emotive punchiness of their music, and their sublime ability to mix disparate genres – elements of metal, house, ska and even straight up pop melody – into both tracks and setlists that remain beautifully coherent despite their superficially jarring elements.

That means a lot of guitar led noise – and the guitar work here is nothing short of enthralling – but also some glorious and memorable asides. The whole thing begins with frontman Rou Reynolds reciting a tubthumping piece of poetry alongside the intro to ‘System Meltdown’, as a delicately supported house – symbolic of wider society – slips piece by piece from a clifftop on the video backdrop.

From there, an extended setlist has a few lulls. In and around the hour mark there’s a definite sense of saminess for a few tracks that the band’s varied styles shouldn’t really allow, but
earlier tracks like the full on anthemic nu-metal of ‘Anaesthetist’ and glorious yet shambolic genre-bending ‘Sssnakepit’ offer incredible highs, too.

While Reynolds says he’s unwell, and apologises for the high chance he’ll cough on the front rows, he also delivers on energy. There’s the occasional moment of rest on the drum riser, during which superb axe-wielders Chris Batten and Rory Clewlew leap around at the heart of the stage, but more often Reynolds is swinging his arms through cycles in time with the wilder beats, or pulling moves as the club elements of the tracks shine through.

In amongst all the inventive angles, there’s not insignificant messages, too. While Reynolds himself admits nonsense sometimes finds its way into his lyrics, there’s also pointedly left-leaning political messages, such as calls to stand up for your rights, and lyrics about breaking free of the concepts of country and border.

The solo-ish period from Reynolds is a set highlight, seeing ‘Juggernauts’ and ‘Gap The Fence’ performed in a more delicate form, the rest of the band returning to the stage during the latter to give it a manic closing verse. By an hour in, there are regular bodies passing over the front barrier despite The Academy’s restrictive policy on crowd surfing, and the entire lowered area in front of the stage is bouncing along vibrantly as the set gathers speed.

At one stage, a crowd member seems to be conducting the audience in their own rendition of recent hit ‘A Kiss For the Whole World’ between songs. In fact, the set is arguably at its peak at the moment the band leave the stage, after a thumpingly powerful rendition of perhaps their biggest track in their two decade career, ‘Satellites’.

When they return, it’s after they’ve used the ever-colourful stage backdrop to demand “fuck yeahs” from a willing audience, and then announced a ten minute extension to the chaos, one centred on the not insignificant mania of ‘Pls Set Me On Fire’ and the gut punch of ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’, before that forceful independence and positivity anthem ‘A Kiss For The World’ puts a shine on the show as a whole.

Enter Shikari are relatively fresh from a massive Wembley Arena headline show. Compared to that, this is a tiny gig with the feel, and at times the energy, of a club. It’s not flawless, and a chunk of around half an hour does seem to drift, but the sheer mania of the start and end periods of the set are magical, and that sparkling, genre-defiant songwriting is something nobody else seems to come quite near. Enter Shikari, for that reason above all others, are a compelling force.